Maheshi Dassanayake

Principal Investigator

Associate Professor

Dong-Ha Oh

Research Assistant Professor

Guannan Wang


I joined Dr. Dassanayake’s lab in 2014 Fall for my Ph.D. degree.  Currently, I am working on two different projects using molecular biology methods and comparative genomics.One project is to confirm that some structurally different genes identified between Schrenkiella parvula(Sp) and Arabidopsis thaliana(At) by our lab lead to different responses of At and Sp to high concentrations of B3+/Na+/Li+ and identify the potential regulation mechanism.The second project is to identify differences between the genomes of Schrenkiella parvula, Eutrema salsugineum and Arabidopsis thaliana differing in terms of their responses to salt, and identify the differences in their responses to salt stress and the genes associated with these differences.And other collaborations include: (1) the identification of SNPs, small INDELs, and SVs between the genomes of cultivated and weedy rice and, more importantly, candidate genes associated with target traits(seed dormancy and seed shattering) ;(2) the analysis of differentially expressed genes between control and Urate-treated Burkholderia thailandensis.

Pramod Pantha

Graduate Student

I joined Dr. Dassanayake’s lab in 2015 fall as a Ph.D. graduate student. I am working in Arabidopsis and its related extremophile (Schrenkiella parvula) to study abiotic stress tolerance. I am using modern molecular biology and comparative genomics tool.  I completed my MS from University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 2015 May. I worked on down-regulation of lignin biosynthetic genes particularly Cinnamyl Alcohol Dehydrogenase (CAD) and Cinnamoyl-CoA Reductase (CCR) in big bluestem grass, a potential feedstock for biofuel.  I completed my undergraduate degree from Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS), Nepal in 2012.

Kieu-Nga Tran

Graduate Student

I graduated from LSU with a bachelors degree in Biological Science in 2015. My passion for science has drawn me into this lab research. I am currently working with three research model plants: Arabidopsis thaliana, Schrenkiella parvula, and Eutrema salsugineum. Schrenkiella parvula (Spa), an extremophyte crucifer found in the shores of the hypersaline lake Tuz of central Turkey, can complete life cycle in the presence of high salt concentrations of Na+, K+, Li+, and borate that are lethal to most plant.  Eutrema salsugineum (Esa), another closely-related halophyte crucifer, shows increased tolerance specific to Na+ salt stress but no different responses to other ion toxicities, compared to the highly salt-sensitive Arabidopsis thaliana (Ath).  Despite of the different evolutionary paths and adaptive strategies, genomes of these three species share ~70% of gene models as homologous and colinear, enabling a three-species comparative analyses.  My goal is to identify different modules of transcriptomic responses of Spa, Esa, and Ath, in responses specifically to Na+ , and Li+ stresses that enable the plants to survive in such unfavorable conditions. Besides school, I'm interested in traveling and learning different languages. Federick Douglass once said: " if there is no struggle, there is no progress."

Chathura Wijesinghege

Graduate Student

I joined Dr. Dassanayake’s lab in 2016 Fall for my Ph.D. I am interested in uncovering the mechanisms, which plants have acquired over millions of years, that give them the ability to survive in extreme environments using genomic, molecular and computational tools. I have focused my studies on how post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression is fine tuned in halophytes, enabling them to conquer extreme habitats.  Model species I am currently working on are Schrenkiella parvula and Arabidopsis thaliana.

Todd Thibodaux

Undergraduate Student

I am a microbiology major at LSU. I am very new to lab work but I am eager to learn, especially about tools like CRISPR. Outside of the lab, I occasionally do volunteer work for local organizations in between studying, classes, and training at the UREC.

Saad Chaudhary

Undergraduate Student

I am a Junior at LSU and a pre-med biochemistry major. I discovered Dr. Dassanayake's lab through the BIOS program on a lab tour and became very interested in the lab's work. It will be very interested to learn the practical processes of the lab as well as the results of altering plant genes. I am a big science guy who was born and bred for science, so this will be very exciting.

Ashley Doan

Undergraduate Student

My name is Ashley Doan and I am a Junior majoring in Biological Sciences with a minor in Textiles and Fashion Merchandising. I joined Dr. Dassanayake’s lab because I wanted to gain more experience in lab work and research and ultimately broaden my knowledge about biology. I am also interested in how this research correlates to the rapidly changing environment. I have learned a lot of things so far in the lab, such as sterilizing seeds and growing and maintaining plants. Outside of the lab, I enjoy watching documentaries and going to the UREC.

August Steinkamp

Undergraduate Student

My name is August Steinkamp and I majoring in microbiology with an interest in medicine. I am currently being trained to work in Dr. Dassanayake’s lab through PFLR. I am extremely interested in the medical potential of stem cells. Outside of science, in my spare time I enjoy playing guitar, cooking, and running.

Jason Garcia

Undergraduate Student

I am a Biochemistry major minoring in Physics who joined Dr. Dassanayake’s lab in early 2021 as I found the transformation research they were doing really interesting. Since then I’ve been phenotyping the species Schrenkiella parvula, Eutrema salsugineum, and Arabidopsis thaliana when exposed to different concentrations of Na+.

Past postdocs and lab managers

  • Dr. Narender Kumar (2015 - 2017) 

  • Swati Tyagi (2015 - 2017) 

  • Sandra DiTusa (2014-2015) 

  • Dr. Subbaiah Chalivendra (2013 - 2014)

Visiting scholars

  • Dr. Patrick Finnegan – University of Western Australia; Sabbatical research; Oct – December 2017 

  • Michelle Arland - Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel - Ph.D. advisee of Gidon Winters and Simon Barak; Dissertation research; Jun-Sep 2017 

  • Mariana Vargas Cruz - Univ. Est de Campinas, Brazil - Ph.D. advisee of Anete Pereira de Souza; Dissertation research; Feb – August, 2016 

  • Gil Eshel – Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel - Ph.D. advisee of Simon Barak; Dissertation research; Jan-Feb 2016

Past undergraduate students

  • Megan Guilbeau--2018-2021 (President's Student Aid, Biology Major) 

  • Jordan Vivien-- 2016-2020 (President's Student Aid, Biology Major) 

  • Christine Tran -- 2017-2020 (Biology Major) 

  • Sravya Pochana- 2017-2018 (President's Student Aid, Biology Major) 

  • Cally Quick- 2017-2018 (President's Student Aid, Biology Major) 

  • Ashley Clement- 2017-2018 (Biology Major) 

  • Delaney Campagna- 2016-2018 (Biology Major) 

  • Lauren Taylor –2015 -2017, graduated Dec 2017 (Honors College; Chancellor's Aide; Biology Major) 

  • John Johnson –2014 – 2017, graduated May 2017 (Honors College; Chancellor's Aide; Biochemistry Major) 

  • Cameron Fleur –2015 -2017, graduated May 2017 (Biology Major) 

  • Harel Schwartzberg – 2017 Spring (Biology Major) 

  • Melody Salmanian - 2015-2017 (Honors College; Chancellor's Aide; Microbiology Major) 

  • Matthew Johnson –2014 -2016, graduated May 2016 (McNair Scholar; BIOL 3999; Biology Major) 

  • Madison Boudreaux – 2014 -2016, graduated May 2016 (BIOL 3999; Honors College; Chancellor's Aide; Biology Major) 

  • Blake Delacroix –2015 Fall- 2016 Fall (Honors College; Biochemistry Major) 

  • Trey Leiva –2016 Spring (Volunteer; Biology Major) 

  • Sadie Thompson –2016 Spring (Volunteer; Biology Major) 

  • Emily Asbury –2015 (BIOL 3999; Conservation Sciences Major) 

  • Vaibhav Rajora - 2015 Fall (Physics major) 

  • Kieu-Nga Tran – 2014-2015, graduated May 2015 (Biology Major) 

  • Ross Kelt – 2014 -2015, graduated May 2015 (Biology Major) 

  • Mary Bergeron- 2014 (Biology Major) 

  • Kendall Dicke – 2013 (Engineering Major) 

  • Stephanie Presedo (School of Veterinary Medicine) 

  • Thuy-Mai Nguyen – 2013 Fall, graduated December 2013 (Biology Major)

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Last site update: April 04, 2021

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